Growing Outrageously Colorful Tropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin

These large, eye-catching, dinner-plate sized hibiscus represent the words “tropical flower” better than any other. Originating in Asia and the Pacific Islands, Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia and the state flower of Hawaii. Decades of intense cross breeding with the rosa sinensis species has produced some unbelievable multi-colored blooms. The American Hibiscus Society was formed in 1950 to promote, develop and improve upon the hundreds of varieties that were quickly emerging.

Single vs. Double
There is both single and double flowering tropical hibiscus in the rosa sinensis species. The ‘Fancy’ cultivars have growth habits of both upright and spreading. Within this group, reside two general forms: the brightly colored, usually sold colored single blooms (sometimes double) that propagate easily and are often used as seasonal potted plants as well as tropical landscape shrubs. hese are often sheared to hedges in frost-free landscapes.

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Growing a Vanilla Bean- The Coveted Culinary Spice

By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin

Vanilla, or Vanilla planifolia, is a vining orchid native to Mexico and it’s one of the most highly sought after spices in cultivation. Vanilla has become a Vanilla plantmainstay flavoring and essence in the world of culinary and perfumes. Today, vanilla is grown mostly for commercial production in Madagascar, Reunion Island, Comoro Islands, Indonesia and Mexico.

The Aztecs first used vanilla for flavoring in cocoa. The long vanilla bean pods were dried and cured to produce its distinctive flavor. Today, the pods are sometimes used whole and the flavoring is drawn out by infusion or the pods are split and the tiny seeds are scraped out. You may have seen tiny seeds infused in creams or custard based dishes such as Crème Brûlée.

Growing Habit
The Vanilla orchid grows wild in tropical forests and comes from one of the oldest plant families (Orchidaceae). Ninety-five percent of the world’s vanilla bean trade comes from one species, Vanilla planifolia. The vine can reach up to 30 meters long and the pods form in bean-like clusters.

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Growing and Fruiting Bananas

Banana 'Super Dwarf Cavendish'

By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin

Whether the banana is a dwarf banana, a tall banana, a red banana or a variegated banana, in the genus Musa the basic cultural needs are the same and growing your own bananas is an exciting and rewarding process, especially when you harvest your first delicious homegrown fruit.

Plant Structure
Bananas are really bulbs much like a daffodil. The vegetative part is made up of leaf petioles tightly stacked together to form a trunk or pseudostem. Like all flowering bulbs, the bud itself is under the soil and as the cycle of flowering approaches the bud emerges from the bulb or the base of the plant and rises up through the trunk or pseudostem to emerge at the top and create a flower or inflorescence and in time bananas.

The Secret to Flowering or Fruiting a Banana
When you grow bananas for fruit, the environment has to be ideal many months before the bud is visible, therefore, a young plant must have optimum conditions for successful flowering and fruiting. Also, pay attention to the variety of banana for some bananas are more tolerant of less than optimal conditions.

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How to Grow and Fruit Figs in your Garden or Container

By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin

Figs (Ficus carica) are some of the best fruiting plants for both the garden and containers. They are almost fool proof in their culture and yield a surprising amount of fresh fruit in one season.

Outdoor Planting
Figs can be grown in most areas of the country as a landscape shrub or tree in the south up to zone 8 or higher and with protection as far north as zone 5 or even zone 4 depending on the planting site. Under most growing conditions, they are deciduous, shedding their leaves to bare stems in late fall and winter. This gives the gardener an advantage as the dormant plants can be easily protected for wintering over in colder zones.

The Potted Fig
Figs can also be grown as container plants year-round. The pot size will restrict growth, which helps contain the size. Some varieties, such as ‘Petite Negra,’ grow well and produce an abundance of fruit in a pot as small as 6″. They can be moved outside in the summertime and back inside during the winter months. Do not be alarmed when your fig drops its leaves while inside. It is simply going into its winter dormancy. Reduce the amount of water given to the plant during dormancy but never allow the soil to dry out completely.

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Mulberry – Easy-to-Grow Berries for Container Gardeners

By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin

Mulberry trees have been well loved by historic figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Washington, purchased 1500 white and black

Dwarf Mulberry ‘Dwarf Everbearing’  (Morus nigra)

Dwarf Mulberry ‘Dwarf Everbearing’ (Morus nigra)

mulberry trees (‘Morus alba’ and ‘Morus nigra’) in 1774, and used them for presidential plantings. Jefferson grew these fruit trees in Monticello, Virginia where he lined both sides of the road around his house with mulberry trees.

Mulberry trees are popular throughout the world, including Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Lately, the demand for these trees has surged in the U.S. and finding mulberry trees that bear fruit early, grow rapidly and produce sweet berries is sometimes difficult. At Logee’s, we have the perfect varieties of mulberry trees for containers or if you have outdoor space, they can be planted directly in the ground for many years of enjoyment.

The Fruit
Mulberries range from cylindrical to oblong and can get as long as two inches in length. The ripe berries dangle from the stem showing off their brilliant black or deep red coloring. Their taste is reminiscent of a cross between a strawberry and raspberry and the flavor can be slightly sweet to honey sweet. They have been used in ice cream, jams, jellies and pies. The fragile skin of the mulberry has discouraged commercial use of this berry but if you don’t mind purple berry juice stains on your fingertips, then it is well worth growing this tree in your home garden.

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How to Grow Scented Geraniums

By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin

Joy Logee Martin, Byron’s mother and the second generation owner, loved her scented geraniums. It wasn’t unusual to find scented geranium leaves pinned to her lapel. “Scenteds,” as they were often called, were popular in the early 1900’s and although they didn’t have big showy flowers like their cousins, their surprisingly fragrant foliage made them the shining stars in bouquets. It wasn’t unusual to have scents such rose, lemon, lime, orange, nutmeg, almond, apple, anise, pine, musk, violet, lavender, balm, oak, or peppermint emanating from a grouping of flowers.

“Scenteds” have other uses too. They were often found in sachets and potpourri bowls or their leaves would be placed in a crystal bowl of water and the fragrance would waft throughout the household. The Rose Scented Geranium became popular in cooking. It wasn’t unusual to have rose flavored honey or rose flavored shortbread, simply by soaking the leaves and extracting the rose flavor out of the leaves and then using the liquid as a food flavoring.

Certain conditions are required to enhance the flowering and foliage of growing Scented Geraniums.

Growing Conditions
Like so many in this genus, they tolerate dry conditions making them excellent subjects for the container gardener. Since Scented Geraniums are dry land plants, they need a period of dryness between watering where the soil is brought to visual dryness or even a slight wilt of the foliage. Then fully saturate the soil and let the water run through. If wet conditions are a problem, a clay pot is a good choice for your container since it allows the soil to reach dryness quicker than glazed terracotta or plastic containers.

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When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Sure They Are Meyer Lemons

By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin

Meyer lemons have become a culinary prize for chefs adding their zestful and tart yet floral sweetness to recipes around the world. Meyers are some of the most loved lemons grown in a home environment. In a small pot, Meyer Lemon, or Citrus limon, has the ability to produce an abundance of lemons, which are more flavorful and juicier than the ordinary table lemon.

The exact origin of Meyer Lemon is unknown. Some sources say it is a cross between a lemon and a sour orange; others say it is a cross between a Eureka lemon and a Lisbon lemon. Whatever the exact cross, Meyer Lemon was identified by and named after Frank N. Meyer in 1908. Meyer lemons have thin skins and because of this, they have typically not been used as a commercial lemon crop but with an increased demand for their unique flavor, they are becoming more widely available. However, you no longer have to wait for them to be commercially grown because you can produce an abundance of your own fruit at home.

The Meyer Lemon is the hardiest lemon and it performs well if night temperatures range between 50-60°F in winter. Meyer Lemon can take cool temperatures down to 35°F for short duration’s. It produces an abundance of flowers and fruits year-round even at a young age.

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